About Once Upon a Word: We're a large group of multi-talented authors working together, to bring you the best romances.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Last month I chatted with Pauline Millward from Kingston-upon-Hull  in England. This month my guest is Shauna Holden, an American. 

Hello, Shauna. Welcome to Once Upon A Word.  I'd like to begin our chat by asking you to tell us about yourself, 

Thank you, Linda, I'll be happy to. I now reside in Northwest Arkansas (Home of the Razorbacks). I am sixty-three, the oldest of three children. My brother, sister, and I were children of  a Bivocational Minister and grew up in a small farming community in Southeast Missouri, where most of my ancestors resided for generations.  I have been married forty-one years to my college sweetheart and have a daughter, son, and a four-year-old grandson.

 I was the first in my family to graduate from college (with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and Physical Education). I married that same year and we lived in Tennessee, then Texas, where I became a military wife. I worked as an employment counselor, psychotherapist, and in Texas Tech University Health Science Centers as  administrator for the Psychiatry department and attached clinics. I never dreamed my education would lead me down this path but I loved it! When we moved to Arkansas in 1989, I became a stay at home mom involved in school and church activities and helped my husband. start a private practice in Psychiatry. Our lives changed in many ways in 1990 when he was mobilized and sent to the Persian Gulf. Since then he has been to the Middle East combat areas for 7 different campaigns.  Needless to say, during those times (since our children left the nest) I have had lots of time to read!

You have certainly led an interesting life so far while adapting to your family's needs. And the jobs you have held are impressive and show your ability to be flexible! I'm glad that with all these activities you have still found time to read.  Can you tell me what you read and which are your favorites?

Everything! I first discovered my love for books from my mother, Gwanda Hency. One summer my brother and I caught her at private reading time for herself and she shared the story with us. Enoch Arden by Alfred, Lord Tennyson was heavy reading for  us youngsters since we were in the age bracket of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys! But she read with such passion and explained what each section meant.  The story appealed to me as a young girl for the romance involved and to my brother because it was about ships, schooners, and going to sea

 I was taught "reading is knowledge and knowledge is power." My dear maternal grandfather had almost no formal education, but he always encouraged us to educate ourselves. He made us aware that there were two things that could never be taken from us; our salvation (spiritual relationship) and our education.

Thank you for sharing these wonderful memories, Shauna. I can see that you were brought up with the Classics and have read many lengthy books.
Does word count matter to you in books you read now?

I really don't mind how long or short a book is as long as the chapters are short. It's okay to leave me hanging at the end of a chapter, because I get to decide if I want to put it down or read for hours to see what happens.

What are the main reasons that cause you to buy a certain book?

I usually buy books by author, title, then genre (in that order). I read many types of books, some for knowledge and some for pleasure. So I try to find reviews about those I might want to purchase. Covers are not really a selling point for me.

Do you prefer ebooks or print books?

Both. If I am travelling and depending on how long the trip in distance and time I will carry  ebooks. Otherwise, I like the printed versions. Our church encourages the E Bibles but I just don't feel right if I don't have my printed version in my hands. We have also collected over the years quite a few books in our library. We have begun donating due to space. The rule is if a book is given to us, or signed/autographed we keep.

We've talked about what you like in books but I wonder if there are also things that turn you off?

I like to read books that flow well or at least begin to make sense before the end. It does irk me at times when a publisher has not had enough pride in their people to proof well and edit misspellings and follow simple English rules.

Do you ever read books a second time just because you like them?

I do read books more than once, but not often. It is to me like a re do of an old classic movie--never as good as the first. When I do read  a good book again, I let some time go by so it seems fresh.  I can always find something I missed the first time around.

Most authors have websites and/or FB pages. Do you visit either, and  if so, tell us what you like to find there.

I follow you! I know anything I pick up that has your endorsement or you have written is going to be great. Otherwise, Barnes and Noble is my friend for finding out if print books or new ones are coming out. That is how I started your collection in my library.

Thank you for those heartwarming words and I'm flattered that you have my books in your library. I have one final question to ask you, Shauna. Do you often read blogs such as this?  If so, do you leave comments?

I do read some blogs and leave comments when I can get them to post. I usually read a few comments at first to see the direction it is taking. I will respectfully disagree with others but if it is turning negative, I'm done. Life is too short to waste.

I totally agree. It is so much better to seek positives rather than negatives in life.

I've considered it such an honor that you chose to interview me. I cannot tell you! Thank you so much from myself and those in my circle of friends and family that continue the legacy of reading good books such as yours.

Thank you for saying that, Shauna, and for being my guest today. I hope a lot of other readers and authors will visit the page and share their own comments. We look forward to hearing from you. Anyone commenting should remember to click on the blue square that says "Publish" to have their comments appear on the page.

Thanks to all who stop by. Other authors will be posting soon so be sure and visit this page again.You can find me at the links below:

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Writing Characters Who Speak Another Language by Sarah J. McNeal

Pennytook as I pictured him on my story board.

Pennytook is one of my favorite characters. He appears in all three of the novels in the Legends of Winatuke trilogy, and he also has a story of his own in the 2016 fall anthology, Myths, Legends, and Midnight Kisses. I have a fondness for Pennytook because he is funny, generous, and knows the secrets that will help his friends defeat the evil that persists in the world of Winatuke (a place forever caught in a medieval time.)

But Pennytook was a complicated character to write. He is a Gypsy who speaks Romanian. Those two characteristics required a great deal of research. I had to look up the culture and beliefs of the Gypsies, their history and their language. Because they are restless travelers, they incorporate their language into the language of the place in which they live. The language becomes their own hybrid over time. They refer to themselves as Romany. It is believed Gypsies originated in India or Egypt and spread out to other countries.

While many countries see the Gypsy as thieves and con artists, the Gypsies are loyal to those they call friend and to other Gypsies. They have their own sense of right and wrong. As far as religion, they are a mix of Christian and their own esoteric magical beliefs.

 We had a Gypsy man die in the ER some years ago. When the relatives came, a whole lot of them, we found there were certain customs involved with preparing the body for burial. They were very secretive about it. Because the body was going to the morgue to be picked up by the funeral home, the relatives had to give us certain instructions. The hands and feet of the deceased were tied with ribbons. We were told, under no circumstances, were those ribbons to be removed. They placed something inside the man’s mouth which I later learned from research was a ball of rice. The mouth is held shut by tying a cloth around the head and over the mouth. In my research I found the reasons for these two customs: the hands and feet are tied to keep the deceased from following or touching the living, and the mouth is filled and tied to keep the deceased from calling out to the living. When a Gypsy dies, his or her name is never mentioned again. It is believed by saying the deceased’s name, a person will call the dead to them. Kinda scary, don’t you think?
Most often, when I wrote Pennytook using Romany, I tried to explain what he was saying in a way that would seem natural. Here are some snippets of Pennytook using Romany language:

(From Dark Isle, Book 1)
1. "I am the vaida known as Pennytook, chief of the Gypsy." He laughed again. "I see you are gadgi, not Gypsy. You look for me. You look for Pennytook?"

(From Lake of Sorrows, Book 2)
1. "No one knows. Her heart is sour like green persimmon." Pennytook looked at his two friends smiling. "You know chi, is always about love." 
(chi means woman)
2. Peregrine laid his violin down and hurried to Izabelle. He pulled her into his arms and spoke to her in Romany. "Your papa walks the lungo drom now to amaro baro them." He kissed her cheek ever so gently and added, "O ushalin zhala sar o kam mangela."
Pennytook supplied the translation for Emma in a quiet voice, "Mulopani say, your papa walks the long road now to the ancestral home. The shadow must move as the sun commands."
(From The Light of Valmora, Book 3)

1. Pennytook settled beside him and gave him a solemn glance.  He touched Falcon’s arm and pointed to the untouched food.  “Bi kashtesko merel I yag.”
“I don’t understand Romany,” Falcon replied.
“It’s an old Gypsy saying.  It means, ‘without wood the fire would die,’” said a familiar female voice.                                    
2. “You understand this, yes?”  He laid his cheek on top of her head.  “The fate of the nations of Valmora lies with us.  We must not fail.”  He braced her face between the palms of his work rough hands so that she would look up into his dark eyes.  “Courage now, coramora mea.  Remember your purpose.”
(Coramora mea means my heart)

Legends of Winatuke

All 3 novels for 99 cents!

From the short story, “Pennytook”, in Myths, Legends, and Midnight Kisses anthology.

1. "Nais tuke. I appreciate it." The two men rode away from the camp toward the hills to hunt rabbits with their eagles.  (Nais Tuke means thank you)
2. Squeezing her hand hoping to reassure her, he continued. "I, on the other hand, am filled with regrets. Sako peskero charo dikhel. Everybody sees only his own dish, or so the saying goes. Aye?”

I used broken English for the most part to establish that Pennytook was a Gypsy rather than relentlessly using Romany.

Myths, Legends, and Midnight Kisses

Buy link: Amazon

A writer can distinguish a character by using language in other ways such as using words associated with southerners like “y’all” or mispronouncing words like “I kin handle that thar scoundrel on my own.”

There is the colorful way in which cowboys speak that sets them apart as well.
From the book, Cowboy Lingo by Ramon F. Adams:
Something to be avoided was “go ‘round it like it was a swamp.”
Something fragile was expressed with “wouldn’t hold no more than a cobweb would a cow.”
Confusion or becoming mixed up, “he got his spurs tangled.”
Stubborn, “chuckle-headed as a prairie dog.”

And so many more delightful expressions come from our western cowboys.
Using special language for some of the characters makes them authentic, vibrant, unique, and memorable in our stories.

Have you written or read about such a unique character? Did the memory of that character stick with you long after you read the story. Was it difficult for you to write a story with a character who spoke in a different way from the others? Could you share what that was like for you?

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media: